Book Review – Connected (Christakis & Fowler)

Book Review – Connected (Christakis & Fowler)

Let me begin by saying that this book is not for everyone. It’s relatively long and dense, slightly repetitive, and packed with research findings and academic literature summaries. Let me also say, however, that this is one of the best happiness or positive psychology related books I’ve read in the last few years! So if you’re academically inclined, or interested enough in this area to persevere through 300+ pages of text, then I can highly recommend it…

“Connected” is written by two academics (from backgrounds in medicine and political/economic science) from Harvard University. The premise,when all is said and done, is actually quite simple. Everything from obesity to smoking, and teen pregnancy to suicide is determined not just by what we, as individuals do, but also by what our friends do; and by what our friends’ friends do; and even by what our friends’ friends’ friends do! Amazingly, the authors cite valid and reliable reseach to prove that there are three degrees of influence on our behaviour.

On a slightly more positive note, this also applies to success, happiness and wellbeing so just as viruses can spread through communities so too can happiness and positivity spread through networks and organisations.

And this is, for me, both a remarkable and inspirational finding; because what it means is that if we can control or utilise or take advantage of the power of these social networks then we can more effectively promote positive behaviours that will lead to enhancing and achieving desirable outcomes such as mental health and happiness, exercise and healthy eating, and pretty much anything else deemed to be in the collective interests.

Once again, this is not necessarily a book for the general public reader; but for anyone with a professional or strong interest in public health, social networks or the like, then as noted above this is one of the most informative and potentially paradigm changing books of the last few years. When the likes of Dan Gilbert write that this book “could change your life forever” and Ed Deiner notes that it’s “one of the most important works of the decade” then those of us interested in what makes us human, and what makes us humans among other humans should sit up and take notice!